Master craftsman Don White joins Scratch Golf
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Don White, the last of the master craftsmen who worked at MacGregor, is back doing what he loves.
For those of you who read about White’s unemployment – following the demise of MacGregor – I have good news to report.
White, 58, who built clubs for 13 major championship winners, joined Scratch Golf on Jan. 4.
“They do the type of work I like to do,” White said in a phone interview. He had been out of work since May when MacGregor was sold to retailer Golfsmith International.
Unbeknownst to me I played a minor role in reconnecting White and Scratch’s co-founder and president, Ari Techner.
When I interviewed White in Albany, Ga., this summer, he recalled that the first set of clubs that he hand-stamped with his initials was made for Techner. It was White’s way of letting his customer know that he personally handled the making of the club (except for inserting the shaft).
Soon after, I called Techner for his recollections, and he told me that he was a student at University of Michigan in 1998 when he made a special trip to Albany. He didn’t go there to hear the sweet music at the Ray Charles Plaza. He went there for a grind by the man Chi Chi Rodriguez described as having the “hands of God.”
Said Techner: “The clubs were so much better than anything else I had ever played with and seeing Don do it, I really understood why. That set of clubs inspired me to start Scratch.”
At the end of our conversation, Techner asked what Don was doing. I told him fishing, playing golf and fixing his house.
The next day Techner e-mailed me with this entertaining story:
“I thought of another great story related to my Don White-made clubs. I was playing down at PGA National with a Golf professional friend of mine (now one of my partners at Scratch) who was working down there for the winter. On the back-9 we got caught by an older gentlemen who was in his late 60s and was an incredibly good player. After out driving both of us on the first hole we were playing he looks into my bag at my Don White-made MacGregors. I had my name, ARI, stamped on the toe of the clubs. His eyes got all big and he got all excited and said, ‘WOW you have those new MacGregor AR-1 prototypes! I am definitely getting a set of those when they get released.’ This became an ongoing joke between me and my friend we called the clubs the AR-1 from then on. When we started Scratch we named our main iron model the AR-1 in remembrance of that day.”
I considered the anecdote for my story but it ended up on the cutting room floor so I’m glad I have a second chance to share it now. Techner concluded his e-mail with this request:
“Do you think you could send me Don’s contact info? I would love to reconnect with him and see if he would be interested in grinding some of our clubs without leaving Albany.”
Well, I passed along White’s phone number and that was the end of my involvement. The rest as they say is history. To my surprise, White even agreed to move from his beloved Albany.
Techner said White will be in charge of grinding all of the company’s irons and wedges. A set of custom-made irons by White will sell for $2,500 – or more than double the retail price of most premium-brand sets. His wedges will retail for $350 each. Company co-founder Jeff McCoy will transition into making Scratch’s collection of putters.
White is waiting for his equipment to arrive. When MacGregor shut down, White bought the lathe he used all those years, and it is being shipped to Chattanooga, Tenn.
“We knocked down a wall in the shop to make room for his equipment,” Techner said.
And what of White’s original set he made for Techner?
“We’re going to hang them on the wall,” Techner said.